Self-Care for Healthcare Workers During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Self-Care for Healthcare Workers During the Covid-19 Pandemic was originally published on Hospital Recruiting.

A sleepy female nurse or physician is resting her head on her arms
David Tiberio/123RF.com

In a matter of weeks, the Covid-19 Pandemic has swept our nation into a state of mixed emotion. While many are laid off or forced to work from home, front-line healthcare workers are pushed to the max with long hours, high stress environments, and a major shortage of resources. Those who work in fields considered to be non-essential have been thrust into working new units, with very little orientation. Adding to the mess, childcare centers and schools are closed, as well as routine outlets for stress (such as gyms and social gathering locations). Messages of support pour from the pages of social media and blogs, all while the public glares with a side-eye if we’re caught at the store in our scrubs. This new reality, no matter how temporary, is affecting us deeply, and it’s more important now than ever to practice some self-care. 

 

Sleep Well

Sleep. That precious friend we all vow to visit for long hours, but whom we put off for the sake of chores, time with family, binging on Netflix, or scrolling social media. If sleep were a person, we would never treat it the way we do. Take time to consider your sleeping habits, and while now is not the time to change your lighting, temperature, or favorite blanket, it is the time to consider how many hours of slumber you’re enjoying. Without enough sleep, your immune system doesn’t run at full capacity, concentration is difficult, and stress is easy. Now, during this difficult time, make sleep a priority! Curious about how many hours you need? Check out this great chart

 

Eat Well

Somewhere along the line, healthcare workers (specifically, nurses) gained a reputation of being REALLY into food. Families, in an effort to show thanks, love to send platters of cookies, brownies, sandwiches, and even salads, while management has an obsession with feeding us pizza. We aren’t necessarily into food more than others are, but our frequently missed meals do make us a little “hangry” when we are off floor. Regardless, healthcare workers during the Coronavirus outbreak have very few food options at the moment. Hanging around the hospital to hit the cafeteria, for even a moment more than necessary is not a preferable option, eating lunch in between caring for patients is usually not appetizing (nothing but a long, hot shower washes off the smell of C-Diff…am I right?), and stopping on the way home is out of the question. For these reasons, and more, it’s important right now to make our meals, regardless of how sporadic they may be, exceedingly healthy and enjoyable. Our bodies NEED protein, nutrients, and even some carbs to keep going. Smashing a bag of cheese curls (with a fork, of course) might be on our minds, but we need to push through, prepare, and eat a proper meal. Chef Jamie Oliver has a great collection of 15-minute, healthy, delicious meals. No plain baked chicken and broccoli here! His other great feature? Meals with 5 ingredients! 

 

Get Out (or Stay In)

Depending on where you live, your state is most likely under a Stay-At-Home order mandating that you stay at home unless you’re working an essential position or obtaining essential household products. People all over are griping about being “stuck” at home, all while those on the front lines would give just about anything to stay “safe” at home. We have closets to clean out too, right? Anyway, it’s just not in the cards for us. This time, we are essential, and as such, are left out of the quarantine “fun.” That being said, we need to try to maintain some level of normalcy in our lives by either getting out of the house, or staying in. Are you a runner? Keep your social distance (seriously, read this article and you’ll never forget to distance again) and go outside for a run. Have wild kiddos at home? Take them for a walk or a bike ride through your neighborhood. Not an outdoorsy type? Stay in and relax. Read a book, binge Netflix, knit, or just veg. In the words of my much younger sister-in-law, do you boo. 

 

Avoid Social Media

Avoiding social media is probably good advice for nearly every life situation. Anyone with an account knows that it can suck away hours of your life and leave you feeling exhausted. Right now, it’s buzzing with articles (both fact and fiction) about the state of our nation and has become a breeding ground of paranoia and frustration. While you may find some words of encouragement, they’re hidden among the mess. It’s really best to just stay away, especially right now. If you want to know the “real” story, just look around you. You’re living it. All the rest is just speculation. 

 

Turn off the News

Journalistic reporting? Fake News? Who knows! Regardless, the news is typically a heaping basket of negativity. The last thing a healthcare worker should do after a long, emotional shift is come home to the news. Even if it’s something you typically enjoy, it’s just not the thing to unwind with at this time. If you’re a junky and just can’t go without, try an alternative news network such as The Good News Network, Science Daily, or Positive News

 

Don’t Compare

Newly painted bedrooms, hand sewn Easter dresses, beautiful crafting projects done as a family, and movie nights with themes and costumes. Sound familiar? Friends and family who are quarantined to their homes are finding amazing ways to fill their days. They have time for togetherness and seem to pull off their projects beautifully! While our dishes pile up, our kids fall behind on their schoolwork, and we look like…well…you know, it can feel like we’re missing out. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the hype surrounding the mandated time at home and want to participate in all the fun, but not if it causes additional stress. Do yourself a big favor and don’t compare your current lifestyle with that of anyone else. It just wouldn’t be fair. 

 

Pray or Meditate

Depending on your background and lifestyle, prayer or meditation can go a long way to bring peace. No matter what, if your faith or spiritual life was important to you before Covid-19, make time to continue in your practices now. The good news is that many services and discussions are available online due to the closing of physical locations! If you’ve never fancied yourself a “spiritual” person, now is a great time to listen to some speakers and consider a faithful direction in your life! 

 

Go Easy on Management

The divide between front-line workers and management has quickly become a deep crevasse. Workers want to know why they don’t have proper equipment and when it’s coming, all while feeling unappreciated for LITERALLY PUTTING THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE. Management is trapped between a rock and a hard place, with workers wanting answers and the legal department handing out scripted responses in order to diminish liability. It’s a corporate world filled with lawyers and board members, and very few managers are able to say what they really think/feel. The environment is a breeding ground for frustration and poorly placed anger. While it’s easy to feel a sense of comradery around a shared enemy, be careful to avoid participating in mass hatred against a pool of middle-management staff who serve simply as messengers. They’re people, too, you know. If they had the resources and could make the necessary changes, they would. They’re just doing what they’re told to do. Even if love for management doesn’t flow from every cell in your body, know that letting go of anger can greatly decrease stress. Even if for that reason alone you choose to let it go, do. 

 

Self-care often falls by the wayside, but during this challenging time it’s more important now than it has ever been. Regardless of how you decide to pull it off, just be sure that you do. Sleep. Eat Right. Pray/Meditate. Avoid Negativity and let go of anger. Take care and BE SAFE OUT THERE!

 

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS STRUGGLING WITH STRESS AND HAVING THOUGHTS OF SELF-HARM OR SUICIDE, PLEASE REACH OUT FOR HELP IMMEDIATELY. CALL 911, OR THE CRISIS CENTER HOTLINE AT 1-800-273-8255. ADDITIONAL HELP CAN BE FOUND ONLINE HERE.